Biophilia invites nature and natural processes into the office to improve the health and wellbeing of employees. It suggests that we have a genetic connection to nature, dating back to thousands of years ago from living in agrarian settings. Through evolution, offices have now developed into an increasingly built environment and one that has a disconnection to nature. Biophilic design talks about bringing nature back to office design, and below we explore the key concepts surrounding it.
Our circadian rhythm is our sleep/wake cycle that runs 24 hours a day. It is the rhythm that decides if we have bounds of energy one day, or feel less enthusiastic the next. Access to natural daylight is one of the main cues in this circuit that can influence our biological, mental and behavioural changes. Beyond this our digestion, body temperature, hormone release and sleep-wake cycles are also impacted. The ability to reap natural light into the office is a key contributor to our circadian rhythms, and biophilic design.
Accurate ventilation is known to go hand-in-hand with employee wellbeing. Preventing stagnation of indoor air can minimise headaches and bad odours, as well as abide by legislative requirements. By reducing the carbon dioxide levels, the feeling of fatigue will also minimise. Conclusively, good ventilation can inject fresh air to feed brain activity and good health among employees.
Natural materials in the office
An affinity to nature is one of the main focuses of biophilic design, with a focus on ‘bringing the outside in’. It encourages the use of natural materials and a physical connection to nature. Having greenery in the office provides aesthetic benefits as well as improving air quality, individual wellbeing and supporting sound absorption. The type of material used has also been known to impact our SNS activity (Sympathetic Nervous System) that is responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response. A common trend seen at Clerkenwell Design Week was the feature of moss or plant walls. This is a creative way to incorporate biophilic design, and is most commonly seen in reception or breakout areas.
The office temperature
Apart from personal preference, colder temperatures can distract employees which hinders productivity, as well as obviously making them cold. 22 celsius has been suggested as the optimal temperature for a productive office.
Noise levels need to be considered in the office, particularly with open-plan designs. Increased noise levels within the office have been linked to higher than normal epinephrine levels; a hormone associated with a spike in stress. There are three alternative methods to creating the same effect as sound masking. Firstly, the layout of your furniture can be the first step to reducing the sound. Secondly, acoustic panels can also be implemented to reduce noise from travelling across the office. Finally, having music without lyrics has also been used as a background noise that creates a calming ambience without distraction, that also buffers general noise levels.